Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa baseball team tries to end Michigan's 20-win streak

Hawkeyes host Wolverines for 3 Big Ten games Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Iowa Hawkeyes left fielder Tanner Wetrich (16) pulls in a fly ball for an out during the 3rd inning of their game at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City on Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes left fielder Tanner Wetrich (16) pulls in a fly ball for an out during the 3rd inning of their game at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City on Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — You’ve probably never heard of Lawrence Technological University.

It’s an NAIA school in suburban Detroit with an enrollment of about 3,300. It has a varsity baseball program, one that gave the Michigan Wolverines their last loss.

Way back on March 14, Lawrence Tech spoiled Michigan’s home opener via an 8-3 win. The Wolverines haven’t lost since, taking a 20-game win streak and No. 7 national ranking by Collegiate Baseball into their weekend series at Iowa.

First pitches at Duane Banks Field are scheduled for 6:05 Friday night, 2:05 Saturday afternoon and 11 a.m. Sunday.

“Play our game, not try to do too much,” Iowa’s Lorenzo Elion told reporters Wednesday night, after Iowa’s 12-4, non-conference win over Milwaukee. “Don’t let their winning streak get to us. Just come out aggressive, like we always do. I know a lot of teams say they’re going to end the streak, but I think we’re going to be the ones. We’re going to play with that chip on our shoulders. Come out aggressive, with a lot of energy.”

Despite a gaudy win streak, Michigan (24-11) has its naysayers because of its schedule. It is 11-0 in the Big Ten Conference, but those 11 wins have come against Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Maryland, who have a combined conference record of just 11-41.

That’s why neither USA Today nor the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association have the Wolverines ranked in their respective national top 25s.

Iowa (24-13), meanwhile, has run the gauntlet, as Coach Rick Heller has said. The Hawkeyes are just 7-6 in Big Ten play, though they’ve played nationally ranked Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota, as well as Nebraska and Ohio State.

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The conference schedule lightens up after this weekend, as Iowa has series remaining against cellar dwellars Northwestern and Penn State. The Hawkeyes are in eighth place and in possession of the final Big Ten tournament spot.

“This is an opportunity to play a good team,” Heller said. “An opportunity to get better. We have a good day of practice coming (Thursday). The weather has been good for us, looks like it’s going to be good for us all weekend. We definitely need all the Hawk fans to come out and support us against a very hot Michigan team.”

Michigan’s pitching has been especially good this season, its 3.24 team earned run average ranking second in the Big Ten and its .222 opponent batting average first. First-game starter Tommy Henry is 7-0 with a 2.49 ERA, Saturday starter Ben Dragani is 4-0, 1.98 and Sunday starter Karl Kauffman is 5-2, 2.76.

Iowa will counter with ace Nick Allgeyer (4-3, 2.27) on Friday night, Brady Schanuel (5-5, 4.89) on Saturday and Cole McDonald (3-1, 2.89) on Sunday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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